Stress, the Saboteur

It’s not really a secret that stress can wreck havoc on your fertility.  It can throw off your cycle, keep you from ovulating, screw with your hormones, and even cause you to miscarry in extreme cases.  Stress can affect you in many more ways as well, I’ve heard that stress has the same effect on your body as smoking five cigarettes a day!  (source)  I’m not very good at handling stress,  I never have been.  I’m pretty sure that one of my cycles was sabotaged by stress.

I work at a senior community planning and running activities.  My boss recently announced that he is resigning.  None of my team is interested in his job which means we’ll all get a new boss.  This also means that instead of breaking my pregnancy news to a boss I’ve known for more than a year and am comfortable with, I have to break it to a relative stranger who may or may not be so understanding.  There’s also the stress of getting used to a new boss and new policies.  My current boss has always been very flexible which was a comfort to me when I thought about dealing with a pregnancy at work.  Now I have no idea how a baby bump will be received.  There are laws to protect pregnant women in the work place, but I am not so naive to believe that discrimination can’t happen in spite of those laws.

In addition to that, some decisions have come from the top of the company that directly affect me, and they aren’t good ones.  I won’t delve into it, but these changes will make it immensely more difficult to do my job.  It also tells me that my job is not valued by superiors.  It’s an extremely difficult place to be.

My husband and I live in a big city, and the reality of where we live means we pay more in rent for our one bedroom apartment than a lot of people pay for their mortgage.  Our original plan was to move into a larger apartment when our lease was up.  We prayed long and hard about the decision, considered our options, and finally decided it would be smarter to stay in our one bedroom for another year to save money.  This means that we will (hopefully) be bringing our newborn home to our very small space.  I’ve been driving myself crazy trying to figure out how this is going to work.

To top it all off, my cat, who has always been sickly and was recently put on a special diet, refused to take her medication and stopped eating.  She did resume eating, but we are having to find another method for administering her medication.  Trust me when I say, we’ve tried everything.  I’ve been pilling this cat for seven years and she knows all the tricks.

With all this hitting me at once I was incredibly stressed out, the entire week had been a rollercoaster of emotion.  I was having trouble sleeping and focusing, I was restless but couldn’t find the motivation to do anything.  My boobs were killing me and I started to have really vivid and bizarre dreams.  It wasn’t normal for me so naturally I thought this meant I was finally pregnant.  Then, that Saturday, I got my period several days early.  It started with some spotting, rather than starting with cramping like it usually does.  This made me think it was implantation bleeding which would confirm my suspicions.  Throughout the day the cramps got stronger and the spotting turned into heavy bleeding.  There was no baby implanting itself into the lining of my uterus and if there had been, it was gone now.

I had been so sure there was a baby.  I cried hard over the loss of that hope.  I skipped church that Sunday and called in sick to work.  My husband was more than supportive.  He saw how hard the last week had been for me and knew I needed a break.  This was truly a mental health day if I’ve ever had one.  I was so torn up I needed a day to put the pieces back together, to cry, to think, and to rest.  There was so much running through my head.  Disappointment, uncertainty, anger, sadness, shame.  I was mad at and ashamed of myself for not knowing what was normal for my body.   Sad and angry that we had to go through yet another cycle.  Uncertain about what the future would hold for me at work.  It’s been a few cycles now and there’s a tiny voice in my head that’s starting to tell me, ‘maybe there’s something wrong with you…maybe you’ll never be able to get pregnant.’

I’ll never know if we had managed to get a fertilized egg during that cycle, and whether or not my stress that week prevented it from growing.  That knowledge won’t change anything, it won’t bring back the baby.  We still have to try again.  I have learned, and am still learning, that I need to trust God.  Stress is a response to changes in life that are uncontrollable, but I believe God is in control and He will take care of me.  It’s a struggle to shut out that voice telling me I’m defective and listen to God’s voice, but I know His is telling me the truth.

If you’re reading this and are in the same boat, here is my advice: It’s ok to be sad and to cry, it’s ok to need a mental health day, it’s ok to wonder what’s going on in your body  and it’s ok to be wrong about what you think is happening.  Things are always going to happen in our lives that we can’t control, but we can control how we respond to them.  Whatever you’re dealing with, trust God, and do what you need to do to take care of yourself and don’t feel bad about it.  This is hard, but you’re rocking it!

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Trying to Conceive is it’s Own Form of Torture

Where to begin?  Well, I live in a huge city with my husband and our cat.  We’re both Christians and our belief and trust in Jesus affect every aspect of our lives, especially this part.  We’re in our 20’s, my husband is a performer (with a day job) and I’m an artist (also with a day job, but mine is part time.)

Up until about two years ago I had no desire whatsoever to add to our little family.  I’ve never been a kid person, I did not babysit in high school and if you approach me with your child and expect me to engage with him/her I will smile awkwardly and maybe say ‘hi’.  Please do not expect more from me.   Yet, something changed in me, God seemed to be giving me this desire I’d never had before,  suddenly I wanted to be a mom.  From there, it’s been a long, hard exercise in patience to get where I am now, to the point  where my husband and I are actually trying to get pregnant.  I’ll begin my story here.  I’ve already found a midwife (or more accurately, a midwife group) that will care for me during pregnancy and birth.  My birth control pills lay forgotten at the pharmacy, and we’ve long since run out of condoms.

Trying to get pregnant is its own form of torture.  I’ve read that it takes most couples 6 to 12 months to conceive.  You’ve got to be kidding me right?!  Six months of this!  I’m trying to pray for God’s will but at the same time praying for this part to be mercifully short!  Every month, on the first day of my period it begins.  I have a nifty little app on my phone (thank goodness for smart phones right?) that I plug information into so I can keep track of everything.  It tells me when I’m most likely ovulating and when to expect my period.  I tell it when I got my last period, then each day I record my basal body temperature, bleeding, cervical mucus, when we’ve had sex, if I have a headache, tender breasts, cramps, backache, what my mood is like, and any fatigue.  It can be even more thorough but I’m too lazy for all that.

Recording all that is the easy part, I also have to be hyperaware of my body.  I’ve seen pictures online of women checking cervical mucus with their fingers…is it just me or does the prospect of handling mucus from your vagina seem gross?  Although, I am also the person who uses a Diva Cup to deal with her period so I guess I can’t really talk.   By the way, my cervical mucus doesn’t really seem to tell me a whole lot.  (Should that worry me?  I don’t know, everyone’s different, right?)  I also have to remember to take my temperature, which you’re supposed to do the second you wake up and without moving.  I often fall asleep while doing this, and this morning I had to do it over again because the beeping that tells you it’s done did not wake me up and the reading was gone by the time I realized it.  Other mornings I forget until I’m already in the bathroom and then it’s too late.

While trying to make a baby seems fun because that means more sex, when you’ve had sex every day for five days in a row and then get up for work every morning, there is nothing you want more than to get in bed knowing there are no expectations.  You get to put on that ten-year-old t-shirt and the baggy pajama pants with the cats on them, sink into bed and drift off.  It’s heaven.  Please allow me to give you this piece of advice, don’t have sex every single day, give it a rest, you need sleep too.  That said, I do enjoy my husband and sex is great, but there is such a thing as too much.

So, the deed is done and now comes the waiting game.  That time between ovulation and the magical test day, it’s what I’d imagine purgatory is like (if I believed in purgatory).  Waiting, hoping, praying, looking for any sign of bodily changes, and Googling every minute detail to see if it’s an early pregnancy sign or just gas.  When I was little I remember seeing a commercial on TV for a pregnancy test, the one that tells you 6 days before you miss your period (3 whole days sooner than the competitor!).  I thought it was stupid,  why can’t you just wait?  After all, 3 days is not that long,   I am currently in purgatory with 2 days to go, if you told me I had to wait another three days I might just rip out my hair and use it to strangle you.  Three days is in fact, that long.  Oh, and don’t test too soon, you’ll more than likely get a negative whether you’re pregnant or not because the hormones haven’t built up in your system yet.  I KNOW it’s tempting, but you’re not doing yourself any favors, it’s a wasted test and those things aren’t cheap.

Are you ready for the longest two minutes of your life?  That’s how long it usually takes for the test to work.  I’ve taken a few so far and they’ve all been negative.  The first one I ever took was a whopping one month into my marriage.  My husband and I were naturally elated to see that one lonely little line that meant we could go ahead with our plans to move to the city.  But now that we’re trying, that lonely little line looks more like a dagger bound for my heart.  I bawled my eyes out the first time.  I can take one in a few days and even though I feel something inside me, some nervous excitement that a precious life is growing in me, I keep telling myself there’s not, so maybe it won’t hurt so bad if it’s just one lonely little line.  Everyone says it’s no biggie, you can try again next month, but I think it’s ok to be a little heart-broken and shed some tears.

I’ve crocheted a dozen hats and booties, little sweaters and blankets.  I have a stack of kids books in my closet and a stroller picked out.  I have a stuffed Peter Rabbit doll for my mom, a song book for my dad, and a scrapbook for my in-laws all ready to reveal they’re going to be grandparents.  I am ready for this baby.  No, I don’t have it all figured out, I’m not even sure where we’re going to be living when this kid’s born, but I am ready to be a mom.